“Pushed, Dunked and Forced.” Water Trauma in Childhood and the 100 Million U.S. Adults Who Can’t Swim.

Over 100 Million adults in the U.S. can’t swim to save themselves! That’s half the 18+ population. 

And their stories can help your child! Not only learn to swim trauma-free but love a lifetime of water too! 

As new members enroll in our SwimAble Adult programs, they fill out a questionnaire and open up about childhood experiences that led them to fear the water and never learn to swim. 

There’s a large number of adults who self-report never learning to swim as kids. But over 20% share traumatic “survival stories” of being thrown in and dunked under against their will. And often by someone trying to help them “learn to swim.” 

We’re talking about debilitating and life-altering levels of fear. So much so, that (20, 30, or 50 years later!) some of them actually mention feeling anxious just filling out our questionnaire! 

  • In this blog we’ll show you:
  • Why force should never be used for kids learning how to swim
  • How force is commonly used in swimming lessons and infant survival classes
  • The unintended consequences force has, and
  • How you can ensure your child learns to swim in a positive, fear and trauma-free way!

blog banner 51-1


If you've been following SwimAble Kid for any length of time, you've already heard us preach that force has no place in the pool! 

I doubt you're going to throw your kid in the pool and tell them to figure it out (that's so last century), but using force is still a standard component of most learn-to-swim programs. Including formal swimming lessons, survival swim classes, and learning at home. 

Whether it's dunking children against their will or forcing them to practice skills they're refusing for whatever reason, force is (unfortunately) a standard swimming lesson approach. 

Now when fear is met with force, trauma like what we mentioned earlier can develop. But using force doesn't always lead to long-lived traumas. Sometimes its sinister effects show up in other ways, like: 

  1. Slower learning 
  2. Skill regressions (no longer doing what child once could do)
  3. Increased refusals to participate 
  4. Reduced fun (or none at all)
  5. Reduced love for the water (and even new fears)

Force is almost always used as a strategy to speed up a child's progress. Ironically, it almost always has the unintended consequence of slowing down progress and even ruining what should be a fun experience.  

Typical uses of force in swimming lessons: 

  • Pushing, pulling, or carrying children into the water against their will. This is standard practice in most swimming lessons and survival swim classes with timid children on their first day of class. But it also happens with well-meaning parents and family members in the backyard and community pools. 
  • Dunking or pulling children under the water against their will. Used to "teach" children how to go underwater and hold their breath. Forcing children underwater against their will is common for young babies (6 months+) in "mommy and me" and infant survival classes and in standard swimming lesson programs. 
  • Rolling children onto their back and holding them in that position against their will: Often used by coaches to "teach" back floating to children who are scared or uncomfortable in that position.  

It's important to point out that children who are already fearful and naturally hesitant are most likely to experience force applied as a teaching strategy. And the result is almost always an immediate escalation in perceived fear by the child. 

Caution: Depending on the level of fear a child experiences when forced into the water, under the water, or on their backs against their will, it is possible to trigger increased anxiety and even trauma in the child - per self-reported childhood experiences shared by real people in our SwimAble Adult questionnaire. 


Force doesn't always lead to permanent trauma, but it often can and does lead to slower learning, more setbacks, and less fun for the child.


Blog Banner SA 15



SwimAble Adult is gaining members quickly because of our proven approach to reversing life-long childhood traumas in adults and helping them learn to swim with confidence after years of not swimming! 

To do that, we live by 2 foundational rules: 

  1. Learning to swim needs to be self-guided (not coach-led)
  2. It takes 100 positive swimming experiences to heal and replace a negative one

Can children lead their own learning? 

Surprisingly, yes! Consider the difference between a traditional public school and a Montessori education. Children in self-guided Montessori programs outperform children in teacher-led public schools on reading, math, and social development tests.  

Self-guided learning works the same in the pool! Kids learn to swim through practice - not swim coaches! And when children are given the freedom to move and play safely in the water, they end up discovering how to swim for themselves. No coaches are needed. 

SwimAble Kid has a simple program dedicated to self-learning called Swim Discovery™ (we break it down below). 


swim discovery - screen shots - a - 39

By removing the need for a swim coach, you eliminate the potential for force to be used against your child as a teaching strategy. That means no forced dunks, floats, or participation. And that means significantly reduced potential for trauma or any other side-effects of force we discussed earlier, like slower learning, setbacks, or loss of love for the water.

Self-guided learning is a whole lot more fun, and there's no outside pressure or force to slow things down - and all of that together leads to accelerated learning!

"Positive experiences generate love for the water and accelerate learning!" - Jim Wood, Owner

Fear is a programmed memory that leads to negative emotions and avoiding activities. At SwimAble Adult, we're able to help adults override and replace their fear response by layering up as many positive and relaxing water experiences as possible. Essentially, each positive experience forms a new memory that builds over any old memories, like a scar building up over a wound. The psychology profession calls this approach "systematic desensitization" - we just say it works! 

When children learn to swim with our self-guided Swim Discovery™ method, any initial fears are quickly extinguished because MORE experiences in the water are positive. 

And because each experience feels safe and positive, kids develop comfort, then confidence, and then a deep love for the water. Which leads to accelerated learning. 

You might be wondering how you can give your child - who doesn't know how to swim (yet!) - the ability to self-guide their learning experience. After all, they can't swim! Here's how:


Blog banner 65



There’s only one way to give your child the freedom of self-guided learning in the water, and that’s to zip them up in a Learn-to-Swim Life Jacket. You can click the link above to take a deep dive into Learn-to-Swim Life Jackets and how they work, but here’s a short explanation:


Think of Learn-to-Swim Life Jackets like training wheels on a bike. Before children actually learn how to ride a big-kids bike, training wheels give them the ability to sit on the bike without falling off. And that allows them to quickly and safely learn how to pedal, steer, brake, and balance (get really good at riding the bike) way before they could have learned without those training wheels! 

Learn-to-Swim Life Jackets work the same way. When your child is safely zipped into a Learn-to-Swim Life Jacket, they’re able to quickly figure out how to paddle, kick, breath, and float without sinking! They quickly develop confidence and can instantly start having fun! Which leads to learning how to swim much faster than they could without that Learn-to-Swim Life Jacket. 

Learn-to-Swim Life Jackets allow children to instantly start moving around the water, exploring, and playing. And it’s impossible to move, explore and play without figuring out how to swim! 
We call this method Swim Discovery™- Here’s how it works!



Blog banner 54




Swim Discovery™ is the safest, fastest, and easiest way to help your child learn to swim (it happens to be the most affordable, too!). 

When you zip your child into a Learn-to-Swim Life Jacket and give them these 5 Freedoms of Swim Discovery™, learning to swim happens naturally and spontaneously. 

  1. Freedom to Play – It's impossible to play in the water without swimming – which means to play, they first have to figure out how to move.
  2. Freedom to Move – Kids are free to move independently without you holding on – which means they swim a lot more and learn faster! 
  3. Freedom to Choose – Kids choose from options of different Swim Discovery™ games to play or make up their own – which means they're always excited to play and swim!
  4. Freedom to Flow – As long as kids follow the pool rules, you don't interrupt them unnecessarily – which means they stay focused on playing – which means faster learning! 
  5. Freedom to Discover – When kids play and move in the water, they learn spontaneously – so avoid the urge to coach them and allow them to figure it out for themselves! 


These 5 Freedoms of Swim Discovery™ give kids the ability to figure out how to swim for themselves! 

Take a deeper dive into each of the 5 Freedoms of Swim Discovery and see how it works for yourself by clicking the link above!


Blog banner 60



We’ve helped thousands of kids learn to swim with confidence using our Swim Discovery™ methods that you can only find by joining SwimAble Kid.

And these methods have been used to help over 100 children reverse fear and trauma caused by forceful experiences at the hands of well-meaning swim coaches and family members. 

Whether your child is scared to learn to swim, experienced trauma in the past, and fears the water, or just needs to learn to swim for the first time, SwimAble Kid is for you! 

SwimAble Kid is only $19.99 a month, your child will discover how to: 

  • Enjoy the water
  • Get water on their face
  • Hold their breath
  • Paddle Swim
  • Kick
  • Tread Water
  • Jump in 
  • Get in and out of the water safely 
  • And so much more. 

In a positive and trauma-free way! 

We'll show you how to accelerate your child's learning and keep them safe using a Learn-to-Swim Life Jacket. And we'll tell you exactly when your child is ready to remove flotation and how much to remove so you never have to guess.  

All you have to do to get started is:  

  1. Go to SwimAble Kid:  https://swimable.com/swimablekid/
  2. Click on: START YOUR FREE TRIAL to try out SwimAble Kid free for 7-days
  3. Start watching videos instantly!

SwimAble Kid memberships start at only $20 a month and are proven to help your child learn to swim quicker and safer. Membership also comes with a free 7-day no-risk trial. Join SwimAble Kid and start watching videos instantly!  

You've got nothing to lose and can only gain a safer swimmer, quicker. 

Until next time. Safer Swimming and Happy Swim Discovery!


Jim Wood, Co-Founder of SwimAble.com